#NotGuilty: The secret community

TW: Rape, sexual harrassment, child abuse

I was raped. It has taken me six months to admit those three words. For half of that time, I didn’t remember. I didn’t want to remember, supressing the memory so that I could carry on with my life. For a further two months I thought it was just a sexual assault, which I felt society thought of as less traumatic than rape and something that I could “move on” from faster. Society doesn’t know the facts that preceded the rape. They don’t know how safe I felt being out, alone at night, despite being intoxicated. They don’t know how my sense of security at my dream university was shattered the moment I realised the two silhouettes I saw walking towards me were not my friends, or even friendly at all. They don’t know how I felt as they overpowered me, tied me up, and subjected me to an onslaught of punches, near suffocation, and oral rape. They don’t know what it felt like to be convinced that those were my last moments alive. They do not know how I felt when they chucked me in a bin once they were done, implanting the idea in my head that I was worthless. Used and then discarded.

There should not be an expectation for a right or wrong way to react after any form of sexual assault, whether it is inappropriate touching or a violent rape attack. They are all traumatic experiences that I would not wish on anyone, ever. My saving grace after the attack was a secret community. A community I felt safe to talk to. A community that would not think that I was even a little to blame for what happened, one that knew I was not guilty. This community is one that the majority of people do not know exists. Some members, including me, have not told even their families that they are part of it. It is a community of survivors.  I was appalled as I began to discover its true size as I slowly confided in more of my friends. Listening to their struggles and how they overcame them was the most healing thing for me, particularly in dark times. Knowing that others had also experienced days when they could not bring themselves to get out of bed was very comforting. They now have many less of these dark days and are moving on with their lives. If they can do it, so can I. 

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As I learnt about the secret community and those within it, I came across two instances of child abuse. Whilst waiting for a counselling session, I looked at one of the flyers pinned up on the wall. It was calling for those who were victims of child abuse to come to a Women’s Only day. This might not seem strange to you but one of the two people who I know was subjected to child abuse is male. As I looked further, I realised that almost all of the help available to the victims of sexual assault was directed solely at women. I am a woman and I hate what I had to go through. I am, however, very glad that I did not have to go through it as a male. Within this hidden community, there are men who were also raped. I don’t feel it is right that the society presumes that all victims of sexual assault are female. Until I stated it just now, I am confident that you had already assumed that I was female. As much as statistics may say that I am a woman, don’t assume that it never happens to men. This secret community, little by little, needs to let the rest of the world in. We need to show them that this problem occurs all too often and that no one but the abusers or offenders are at fault. We need to show them who we are and that we are a strong community.  This article is my starting point to doing just that.